Worried about Canine Respiratory Illness? Here are 6 Ways to Prevent its Spread

Rescue Expert Blog

News outlets across the US are reporting an outbreak of a “mysterious” canine respiratory illness that have similarities to “kennel cough”, a term that covers various viral and bacterial infections that result in a honking cough in dogs. While dogs usually recover from kennel cough, some of the recent cases have unfortunately resulted in more severe outcomes such as pneumonia and even death.  

While veterinary and other health officials have yet to identify the causative agent, what we do know is that infection control emerges as the critical weapon to manage this situation.

As we continue to monitor the situation and learn more, we recommend following established best practices for infection prevention in pet services settings. In the case of a suspected or confirmed outbreak, we recommend consulting a veterinarian for guidance on appropriate response measures.

Below are some key practices (also summarized here) that pet services can implement:


Ensure that all pets are up to date on recommended vaccinations. For more information about this, please refer to our resource here.


Screening of pets upon admission to your facility is important in preventing the entry of pathogens into your facility. This will allow you to track any health or vaccination changes, current or recent disease symptoms, or travel history that may indicate a higher risk of infection. Pets with known disease exposure may be excluded for two weeks, or as recommended by a veterinarian.

This downloadable checklist gives you a list of simple questions to ask dog owners before and after every visit. 


As a general precaution, unnecessary contact between pets or between pets and people should be avoided. Facilities should have a dedicated isolation area that can be used to separate animals with a suspected or confirmed infectious disease.


When possible, equipment should be dedicated to a single animal. Surfaces and equipment that come into contact with multiple pets should be regularly cleaned and disinfected with Rescue.

In the case of a suspected outbreak, e.g., if a pet is exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory infection, it is recommended to disinfect using the 1:16 (8 oz./gallon) of Rescue Concentrate, or RTU/Wipes.

To learn more about disinfection best practices, please refer to the resource here and to the IBPSA Infectious Disease Standards which provide guidance to people that work with animals so that they can limit the introduction and spread of infectious diseases.

How to Clean and Disinfect a Kennel  

In addition, measures to improve air quality, as outlined here, may also reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Work Clothing

Dedicated clothing should be worn when in contact with pets, and laundered to prevent transmission of pathogens.

Hand Hygiene

Ensure that staff and visitors are washing their hands with water and soap or hand sanitizer (if hands are not visibly soiled) between contact with each dog whenever possible, and before entering and after leaving animal areas. Have hand hygiene stations easily accessible throughout your facility.

Additional Resources


Stull JW, Kasten JI, Evason MD et al. (2016). Risk reduction and management strategies to prevent transmission of infectious disease among dogs at dog shows, sporting events, and other canine group settings. JAVMA. 249(6): 612 – 627.